How to Challenge Your Property Taxes

How to Challenge Your Property Taxes
  • Opening Intro -

    Over the past few years as home prices have plummeted, many homeowners have found that their property taxes haven't taken a corresponding drop.

    Local tax departments were quick to raise taxes as home prices surged, but in many cases have been slow to adjust taxes downward, except through taxpayer appeal.


You can fight city hall and win.

One problem with higher tax bills has everything to do with assessments. Your tax assessor may only review rates every few years which means that you’re stuck paying higher taxes unless you take action. It is that action you should begin to take as soon as you receive your next tax bill.

Let’s take a look at what steps you can take to lower your property taxes:

Review your bill – Examine your bill closely as it may contain mistakes. Your tax assessor may believe that your home has more rooms than it does, adding in an extra bedroom or calling a partial bath a full bath erroneously. Moreover, the tax department may think that you have a finished basement, have full use of your attic or are enjoying some other improvement deemed taxable. These errors are the easiest to correct and oftentimes can be handled right over the phone.

Get some help – You may need to spend some money to fight city hall. Paying $300, $500 or more may seem counter intuitive, but if you’re able to save $5,000 on your property taxes over the next five years, then it is worth it. Consider hiring a tax appraiser to gain an accurate valuation of your property. A lawyer can be useful if your appeal is particularly large and complicated. In some cases you may be able to use real estate comparables or comps furnished by a helpful real estate agent or broker to build your case.

Know your market – Regardless of whether you seek professional assistance or not, you must understand your local market, particularly your neighborhood to help build your case. Comps can do wonders, but nothing beats a visual comparative of your area. You may not be able to gain access to these homes, but if you find homes that are comparable in size to your own, then these homes should be compared to help you determine if you have grounds for an appeal. Property tax information is a matter of public record, which means you can find out how much these homeowners are paying on their homes.

Special conditions – Comparing like homes doesn’t tell the entire story. Where you home is situated and the condition and size of your property can make a difference. If you live on a busy street and comparable homes are on side streets, then your taxes should be lower. Your case is even stronger if comparable homes have larger properties or if there are other problems with your property such as proximity to power lines, a water tower, sloping and unusable property in your back yard, a nearby highway or some other negative aspect. If your home is in disrepair, note these problems too.  Home market values need to be based on accurate information.

Time is of the essence – As you gather your evidence, consider that time is not on your side. You may have only 60 days to file an appeal, which means you’ll have to gather your information quickly to build your case. The more complex your appeal, the more likely you’ll have to work hard to beat this deadline. If you don’t get your appeal in on time, you may have to wait one year to file again. In the meantime, you’ll be charged the higher tax rate.

Will you win your appeal? If you’re organized, have a strong case and you get your appeal in time, then you should. If you lose your appeal, save all of your research and get ready to fight again the next year.

Consumer Financing reference:

turn your home into a bank

Bestseller No. 1
Cook County Real Estate Tax Handbook: 2020 Edition
  • John Mulvey - Attorney at Law
  • Publisher: Independently published
  • Paperback: 56 pages
SaleBestseller No. 2
What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
  • Stephen A. Schwarzman
  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
Bestseller No. 3

Last update on 2020-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Categories: Property Taxes

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".